Review: 'Covered,' Robert Glasper

Review: 'Covered,' Robert Glasper

8:56pm Jun 23, 2015

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Transcript

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

When he started the Robert Glasper Experiment, the pianist was trying to blend hip-hop, jazz and R-and-B into a new sound.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CHERISH THE DAY")

ROBERT GLASPER EXPERIMENT: (Singing) Cherish the day. I won't go astray. I won't be afraid. You won't catch me running moving the way that I move.

MARTIN: It was a surprise success. The Experiment's 2012 debut, "Black Radio," was awarded the Grammy for best R-and-B album. The follow-up, "Black Radio 2," featured A-list vocalists including Jill Scott and Anthony Hamilton.

Now Glasper's back with a new stripped-down sound in an album titled, "Covered." It was recorded live over two days at Capitol Studios in Los Angeles. Here's reviewer Tom Moon.

TOM MOON, BYLINE: Robert Glasper started his career in jazz making edgy piano trio records. For his latest project, he returns to that instrumentation, but he doesn't go all the way back to jazz, exactly.

(SOUNDBITE OF ROBERT GLASPER EXPERIMENT SONG, "I DON'T EVEN CARE")

MOON: Instead, Glasper, bassist Vicente Archer and drummer Damion Reid do a jazz intervention on tunes from "Black Radio" and "Black Radio 2," including this Macy Gray bonus track.

(SOUNDBITE OF ROBERT GLASPER EXPERIMENT SONG, "I DON'T EVEN CARE")

MOON: They banter. They pull apart the melodies. And songs that were heavily scripted are animated by the spirit of freewheeling spontaneity.

(SOUNDBITE OF ROBERT GLASPER EXPERIMENT SONG, "I DON'T EVEN CARE")

MOON: Glasper talks to the invited audience like he's performing in a cozy club. When he plays, he sounds inspired by Capitol's Studio A, where Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole and countless others made history. Check out the trio's backdrop for a spoken word piece by legendary entertainer Harry Belafonte.

(SOUNDBITE OF ROBERT GLASPER EXPERIMENT SONG)

HARRY BELAFONTE: So let me tell you who I think I am. I'm one of the ones of color who got over. I'm one of the ones your bullet missed. I didn't graduate high school, not to boast about but to puzzle over. After all, I've been awarded 34 Ph.D.'s, honorary they're called because I defied the rules. I'm a dropout, not by choice but by fate's sense of humor, by nature's design.

MOON: And Glasper seizes every chance to cut loose at the piano. Listen to where he goes during his second chorus on "Stella By Starlight," the album's lone jazz standard.

(SOUNDBITE OF ROBERT GLASPER EXPERIMENT SONG, "STELLA BY STARLIGHT")

MOON: These elevated three-way conversations are central to the record. Even if the club is a pop-up in a studio and the tune is a funk jam and not something from the jazz songbook, Glasper and his trio immerse themselves in a high-speed pursuit of the new. When they get going, it's a thrill to ride along.

(SOUNDBITE OF ROBERT GLASPER EXPERIMENT SONG, "SO BEAUTIFUL")

MARTIN: Robert Glasper's latest is called, "Covered," recorded live at Capitol Studios. Our reviewer is Tom Moon. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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